Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

Sweet Power

A neighbour who is also an electrician came in today to talk about power sockets. He is the tallest man I’ve ever seen… Man Mountain. I don’t mean he is overweight, because he certainly isn’t. It’s amusing to see the cats’ reaction when he’s visiting! Their eyes get very big and round, their bellies drop to the floor, and they don’t want to be in the same house with him.

He’s a pleasant fellow, but my anxiety makes me feel trapped if people are standing between me and the door. That’s multiplied when it’s someone as tall as him, so I can laugh at the cats all I want… I’m really no better!

Perhaps the universe is playing a trick on us and sniggers up its sleeve when you think, “I don’t know why I get so nervous!” and all the time it’s just that you were a cat in a former life. Nobody could possibly know that except the universe itself.

My sister brought us odds and ends (milk and other groceries we asked for) and also turned up with a large apple pie. Said we could share it, and cut it herself in the kitchen (turning it into apple crumble in the process). She wasn’t staying long, and took off out the door again with her share.

I know she was looking at desserts anyway to tempt my mother’s appetite, but I think it’s cute when somebody can’t resist something — hard to explain. I have a couple of bags of my favourite sweets squirrelled away in my room but haven’t touched them… just feel happy knowing they are there in case of need. Chocolate peanuts and Bassett’s Mint Creams, in case you wondered!

I need a cleaning agent to whiten some grouting in the kitchen. Asked everybody I could think of (other than Man Mountain) what would work. My mother was trying to tell me, and I said unfortunately my battery had just gone phut and she’d need to write it down. We didn’t have a pen and pad to hand, so she traced letters on the kitchen worktop with her finger: the name of a shop in town. Should see if they have something suitable.

I was amazed I could read what she wrote when it was invisible writing!

A few days ago, I had a strange not-quite-headache. All my energy vanished in a puff of smoke and I couldn’t even get up the strength to sleep. I had a persistent cough that got worse and worse, and my mother pointed out that it started when somebody gave her daffodils. My lurgi did have that kind of vibe… could have been an early spring allergy.

Once I start coughing it takes absolute ages to go away, so I was dismayed… then remembered a friend dissolving a dessertspoonful of honey in a mug of boiled water. He said his mother gave him that whenever he had a cold. I tried it again for the first time in years, and it’s really comforting. My cough is nearly gone. The honey’s nearly gone too, sadly…

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family

Nearly Time for Tea

Your mother on a low sodium diet:

“I do need a little salt on things, otherwise I won’t eat them.”

“I don’t like Greek Philadelphia… too sharp for me. Prefer the usual Philadelphia.”

(When sister was waving a bag of dried banana chips): “I’m *tired* of things that are good for me.”

Only Earl Grey will do… Lady Grey is ‘too orangey’. Well, my sister’s not fond of it either, and I’ve never gone for any of these spicy teas, so that’s understandable. I would be peeved if I wanted PG Tips, Typhoo, Assam, Darjeeling or ‘Breakfast Tea’, only for somebody to bring me Earl Grey instead. To be fair, nobody turned up with Lady Grey tea; it was already in the cupboard and I asked why she was ignoring that and asking for a new box of Earl Grey.

We aren’t eating salad dressings, but I’ve never liked sharply flavoured dressings on salads, whereas I’m more likely than the others to take something with sharp lemon or lime in it, so long as it’s recognizably lemon or lime. As for Greek yoghurt… love it! Mum doesn’t like yoghurt at all.

We’ve had a run of bad luck over the past three days. I won’t recount everything that’s gone wrong, but my parsnip soup wasn’t good (the leek soup much better); a glass broke in the dishwasher before it had even done a wash; everybody seemed to be coming to the house on the same day and I was running from room to room tidying just when I thought I could sit down with a coffee.

I wrote to a friend, saying I hoped she was OK, as she had been quiet for a week. She said she never even got my last email! She was wondering why I wasn’t answering her, while I wondered why she wasn’t answering me. My last email to her had disappeared en route.

Then last night the central heating conked out, and we had a really sharp frost. I was shocked how cold it was when I got up at 7 this morning… brr! Jumped straight into nearest sweater (pretty snowflake-patterned one from Norway).

Thankfully the heating’s fixed now. We had an explanation about the pressure in the boiler having dropped away to nothing, and they poured more water in. I wondered if that was something we could do ourselves, but my mother said no, she hasn’t a clue about boilers. I wasn’t planning to send her to the back of the cubby-hole to repressurize it for us…

However, I’m uneasy at the thought of central heating that gets knocked out just because the pressure ‘drops off’… like it’s something that could happen repeatedly, just on the coldest night of the year.

At least the sun is shining today, and my thoughts are turning to spring. Fingers crossed things will be good from now on! There’s a chicken to roast and tea to drink… both PG Tips and Earl Grey.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Health Issues, Hearing Loss, Life and Family

Fire Angels and Stay-At-Homes

Mum came home a few days ago — they say she’s in the early stages of heart failure, and needs to be on a low salt diet. I’ve been keeping a spreadsheet of the nutritional values of food we’ve been eating — I’m not sure how to calculate values for home-cooking, but it would be good to find out.

Someone came from the local fire service to fit a Fireangel smoke alarm especially for me! It has a vibrating pad that tucks under the pillow, and it flashes like billy-oh. I said, “yes, that would definitely wake me!”

Mum’s of the opinion that absolutely nothing wakes me, but if this doesn’t, nothing will.

I was reading the instructions that came with the alarm. The first thing I noticed was how utterly *black* the booklets were. Perhaps we’re intended to think “this would be the colour of all my stuff after a fire.”

The booklets warn that the alarm can only advise me of fire if smoke reaches it, so it’s possible a fire will burn in another part of the house for quite some time, and by the time the smoke gets to me, it could already be too late.

However, these alarms can work as a network, so if there are alarms in other rooms which are linked, the first alarm to notice something iffy will pass the message along, and my own alarm would go off as a result.

I have a little fire angel sitting next to me… ain’t that nice. 🙂

Moving on…

We all had appointments with various health professionals over the last two days. My mother went to the community hospital to see her GP, and we had to drag her around in one of those portering chairs. I pointed out to my sister there’s a diagram on the back of the chair showing somebody dragging it with the poor passenger facing backwards. There’s a big red cross next to the diagram, so presumably we aren’t meant to do that. She laughed and said a nurse told her just to pull it because the steering is completely hopeless.

So that was Mum’s appointment. Today sister and I both had appointments at the same hospital; for me, it was to see a nurse about the anxiety, which I’ve decided is here forever on some level.

The nurse asked if I got on well with E… she claims she argues with her own sister. I said yes, we do argue sometimes… but the thing is, we never bear a grudge. We can be screaming at each other one day, and the next day there is no ‘atmosphere’… It’s as though we ‘get’ that the other is only human.

Then it was the turn of my mother’s cat, who squirms, hisses and bites when people try to clip her talons. It took two people to clip her claws at the vet’s!

I’m glad nothing much is going on tomorrow, other than making parsnip soup without salt.

Going slow with frequent breaks to chill out is a pace that suits me — I don’t tire out so much or get frazzled. Earlier this month, I was getting more and more stressed when we were going every day to the hospital. It wasn’t just worry about Mum, as you keep a lid on that and focus on the practical… it’s the actual going out, being on constant alert trying to understand what people are saying, and dodging between crowds who all want to walk where you’re walking or stand where you’re standing… that’s what starts to get to me.

You would think when you learn your way around and find out what’s what, you’d start to relax… but that’s not how it works with me. It sounds unflattering, but perhaps I’m simply a homebody! I’m mostly quite happy running the household, even in these dark times. It’s not that I don’t want to see wonderful new places, or go out and get along with people; the issue is that in practice it’s not easy and sometimes impossible — I tire out eventually.

Makes me think of the poem ‘Sweet Stay-at-Home‘ by W.H. Davies. Swop ‘sweet’ for ‘salt-free’ and we’re well on track. 🙂

Posted in Health Issues, Lost in Thought

Mindfulness Experiment Gone Awry

A good way of escaping unwelcome introspection, I’ve read, is to imagine yourself in the ocean. The colourful fish swimming past you are your thoughts — you observe them swimming past, perhaps going round you a few times, then they are gone.

My initial reaction, really, is that I don’t want to be in the ocean! Just yesterday I viewed a photo of sting-rays and sharks nosing sharply around, and that’s the image that came to mind when I read the above idea.

Some of my thoughts might well be sharks, not clown fish. I wonder how many other people out there would empathize with this? Well, let’s just go with this mental image for a while, and see what happens. Here’s me floating in the murky sea water, surrounded by flitting predatorial shapes.

What is this shark? He’s looking right in my face, like the old fellow from that turtle film, Sammy’s Adventures. What does he represent?


When I started the exercise, I closed my eyes and visualized a 3D cartoon image because of remembering about Sammy the turtle, then linked the looming shark to the worries in my mind. Instantly, the oceans closed in. Depths dropped away below me, all my friends were gone, no safety anywhere. Nothing was in my future but cold drowning and too many teeth.

Do what you do with a nightmare — banish it. Swim back up for a few breaths of fresh air. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind… I’m supposed to be relaxing happily, my thoughts swimming past and disappearing unchallenged. How do you let go of a big grey Thought that’s taking far too much interest in you?

Summoning it up in that form may have been a mistake, unless I take control and cause it to swim away. Is that doable? No, it’s just hanging there in the water, staring at me. I can’t imagine it gone. Even if it swam off, it would circle round then return.

“Do I look like food to you?” as Sammy said to the wee red fish, who grinned toothily and nodded. This is not my idea of relaxation. Maybe I could try an inflatable swimming pool instead?

Hmm… Ground feels bumpy underneath, but at least nothing is swimming around in here. (Feels around dubiously). There’s grit in the pool, and bits of grass. When I climbed in, I took bits of the lawn with me, stuck to the soles of my feet. Irritating.

Any minute now, somebody’s going to scream at me to come in for lunch.

Posted in Health Issues

Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: a patient’s view

I finished the online CBT course on Friday. Do I feel any different? No… just relieved it’s over!

A number of people on the forum say it made things better for them.

“It must be nice to be you,” I mused enviously. “Able to say something positive and encouraging about the course, and follow it up with a ‘thank you!’ That’s the desirable reaction.” Some went so far as to say it has turned their lives around. It would be amazing to be able to say that.

One or two, on the other hand, say they didn’t find it helpful. I was disappointed we were in the minority, but maybe only a few of us negative nellies made it to the final session. I read that a lot of people drop out of the course. It shouldn’t have taken me so long, but I had a long hiatus in the middle.

The course is intended for ‘mild to moderate depression or anxiety’, but it seems if it doesn’t work, it’s because of “low adherence and engagement with treatment, rather than lack of efficacy.” See the Guardian article: Questions raised over effectiveness of online CBT for treating depression

I don’t know enough myself to be able to pinpoint why it works for some and not others — can only give my personal experience.

A lot of the time when I was trying to do the CBT exercises, I felt irritated, even angry. If I put it down and did something else for a while, I would eventually be able to complete the exercises, but my heart wasn’t in it… I felt distanced from what I was doing. For instance, I had to list positive self-beliefs, and was jollied along with, “don’t be modest.”

Having got over my spat of grumpiness, I wrote: “I read a lot; I write well; I try to improve my artwork.”

As the online course reminded us, ‘practice makes perfect’. I’m supposed to keep doing these exercises; these tools to improve my mood or how I handle things — but right now I look at those three self-beliefs and feel on the low side of neutral. I’m confused about the kind of beliefs I’m supposed to come up with, and have a sneaking feeling I got it wrong. This exercise is a spin-off from a section about ‘attributional style‘. Healthy beliefs about oneself should be ‘permanent, internal and general’ as opposed to ‘specific, external and temporary’.

So… ‘I read a lot’… is that specific or general? I would have said ‘specific,’ as it’s a specific thing that I do, but the relevance by-passes me at the moment.

It’s internal, I think, because it’s a way of taking credit to myself. I’m not depending on someone else to do all my reading for me! Also, it’s a permanent belief; I read a lot while I can. So what does a temporary belief look like? “I read a leaflet yesterday but probably won’t bother again?”

A lot of people on the CBT forum seem to like that exercise, so they must know what it means and how to correctly label their beliefs. It’s just me who’s the numpty!

Come to think of it, “I was lucky to win that tennis match,” is probably a temporary belief. A more self-believing belief would be, “I won the match because I’m a good tennis player.” No wait, that’s an internal belief, whereas “I was just lucky” is external because the gods smiled on you.

“I read a lot” doesn’t make me feel I can take on the world. People write such contradictory things I find myself believing stuff that cancel each other out, don’t know what to believe, or do daft things because I uncritically internalized the last thing I read. So much for all that reading.

At any rate, perhaps a better self-belief would be “I am kind.” That’s more ‘general’ because it’s something I am, whereas “I read a lot” is a specific belief because it’s something I do… though don’t take my word for it!

It should really be “I am sometimes quite kind.” 😛 Does that make it a more temporary belief? Is that the very thing I’m being warned against by the CBT course? I would probably be told I’m giving away credit for my success.

Well, that brings us to the point of the attributional style. When you have successes or disappointments in life, you use your self-belief in the following way: “I made a new friend today because I’m kind.”

That would be better than saying, “I made a new friend today because the other person is kind,” which would suggest there’s nothing about you the other person thought was remarkable.

“I made a new friend today because I was on my best behaviour and hid my usual surliness”… that’s pretty realistic for many people, especially me, but I think the CBT would frown on it!

I could just switch off the niggles in my head and say, “I made a new friend because I’m kind and witty and clever, and the other person likes me.”

Does that make me feel good? Hmm……..

Just had a lightbulb moment! I noticed the word ‘control’ when reading online about attributional style. People are depressed and anxious if they don’t feel in control, so it makes sense that being able to make more powerful statements should be beneficial. That’s easier for me to grasp than whether or not my beliefs are ‘permanent, internal and general’.

I hate to be curmudgeonly, but you’ll note I didn’t say that I believe telling myself that I believe something that I don’t believe is going to make me step out more confidently! However, since practice makes perfect, I will keep trying the various exercises for a while. I would enjoy setting up a special CBT journal to fill in every day… though perhaps actually filling it in is another story?

Posted in Art, Health Issues

Badly Painted Germ

Evil looking and shapeless creature.Sitting up in the middle of the night with a hot forehead. Must have caught something in town.

 You ask yourself, “What did I touch?!” but of course if could have been anything. Shop doors, clothes-hangers, the edge of the coffee shop table… who knows?

I should email a friend while I have the light on. She sent a photo at 5:30 yesterday morning, so I should return the favour. It’s fortunate that digital photos don’t arrive at the other end with germs on them.

If I were a speed painter, I could paint her a picture. Unfortunately I know I would still be labouring over it by Christmas, so I better not even start.

Have just checked the headlines. “Jeremy Clarkson in hospital with pneumonia”. (Panics slightly)… no, that’s not what I have. Surely.

Looking at other news, I have nothing to complain about, really.

Will send her a badly painted germ… yes, I painted it anyway, despite my doubts. So it can be done.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Health Issues, Life and Family

Shrouded in Scottish Gloom

The garden looks really good just now. My sister takes care of it every weekend, and I’m amazed at how neat and pretty it is. When I peek out the back door and smell lilac, I understand why gardeners love what they do. There’s something sane, calm and peaceful about the outdoor landscape… it’s an escape for practical, hard-working people.

It makes me yearn to be that kind of person too.

I’m more the kind of person who strolls around with a camera and feels happy at the beauty other people have created. Unfortunately, Scotland doesn’t like us to have heatwaves for very long, and there’s a lot of dreich weather at the moment. Yesterday it couldn’t make up its mind between strong sun, drenching rain, and the occasional bolt of lightning. Today it decided to go ‘all rain’… dark grey clouds parading overhead with shimmering sheets of crystals dangling from their misty earlobes.

When the day was at its darkest, I came across a monster snail clinging to the upstairs window. It reminded me of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea… water all around and this muscular, glistening creature seeking a way in. Visualizing its fellows squirming all over the house, roof and all, I could understand my mother’s utter abomination of them. She gets the same look on her face that Ripley gets in Alien.

If you were on a spaceship with those things on it, you’d do better with her as a shipmate than me.

I don’t mind the odd snail or group of snails, but we have too many. They slither all over — slugs too — and roll on their backs, drinking in the downpours.

The other night I was trying to move a wheelie bin without stepping on a single invertebrate, and it was impossible. I swear there was either a slug or a snail trekking across each square foot of ground, and because it was dark, I couldn’t even see them all. Despite the best I could do, the bin and I left a trail of devastation in our wake.

Have I complained about this before? I’ve a feeling I have.

Anyhow, with the lowering weather, some sadness, and a general feeling of being under siege, it seemed a good day to activate my online CBT account.

“What’s that?” you say, suddenly looking nervous. “CBT??”

Our GP thinks it might help combat my chronic anxiety, but I ignored the activation request for two weeks. I could always think of something better to do! I don’t have raging agoraphobia any more, but I’ve had a traumatic few years… it’s like a sleeping Leviathan stirring. If it comes up again, it could be bad.

I don’t like cognitive behavioural therapy. I’ve tried it before and it left me bemused. I felt more stressed attending the sessions than at any other time, so I cut them short.

I have to confess, when I read that I would need to have a working printer in order to do the current course, I was irritated. We have ours loaded with 100gsm stuff. I was determined not to start the course till I’d dived out and bought the cheapest paper I could find — 75gsm. I put that in on top.

OK, well, I activated the CBT course today, answered a raft of multiple choice questions, then it suddenly stopped, and I was confused. It just told me I would need an up-to-date Flash Player (which I’ve got) in order to be able to view my sessions, but I couldn’t see any other links, or a home page, or even a bit of text saying “thank you — see you next week!” or something of the kind.

Is this typical NHS behaviour?

I’ve had similar emails when asking for appointments… no ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ or individual names… just come straight to the point then drop out of sight. You can imagine the staff rushing around like busy ants, so you don’t really resent it, but it’s still a little… leaves you feeling like one of those cartoon characters who was walking on rock and is now pedalling in mid-air.

Thinking about it, it was just the ‘activation’ I was engaged in… if I went back, the first session would be there waiting.


Perhaps it’s all one big cryptic puzzle designed to keep me engaged trying to figure it out so that I don’t have time to stress about anything. There was a multiple choice question I didn’t understand at all, and the only way I could dodge it was to pick the most non-committal response. I felt like turning to someone and saying, “Sorry, what do you mean?” Instead, I said it to the empty room.

I should raise that question with them in case it turns out to be something important… or is that typical catastrophic thinking? What significance could a single, vaguely-worded question have? I gave them a vaguely-worded response… fair dos.

Meanwhile, none of this helped the cats with their own issues. They sat miserably at the back door, looking out at the slurping snails. As far as they’re concerned, this type of day shouldn’t be allowed.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

A Gold Toothless and Other Ramblings

There’s a touch of blogger’s block going on here.

A couple of days ago a friend happened to mention it’s a good trick to write for yourself only, not for any particular audience, and to avoid editing as you write.

Today I’ll just write and see what happens.

Yesterday my sister replaced the broken old cat flap. When I checked it out, My boy cat (blog name Samson) sat bolt upright, ears straight up, staring brightly at me, one eye slowly closing in a quizzical wink. It looked like he was saying, “Well? What do you think?”

You would think he had bought and fitted it himself. And I was reminded of someone. Every so often I’ll look at him and be bothered by the feeling he’s like a character on TV, but I can never remember who. Eventually it hits me… it’s Toothless. Never anybody else. Just Toothless.

I don’t have Toothless in mind already and say “Toothless is like Samson”… I don’t do that. I can never remember who I’m being reminded of, but the resemblance… something in the expression and posture… is strong.

Although mostly silent, Samson seems to be communicating with every fibre of his being. He’ll sit and stare intently at you, and the minute you turn and catch his eye, he leans forward and his face is absolutely radiant.

Nothing cheers you up quicker. 🙂

My mother is unwell; eating very little these days. For supper last night she had three breaded scampi and an onion ring. Today she managed a poached egg on toast. When I brought a plate of food the other night, she courageously drew herself up to meet it. I said she looked like a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, about to eat something with sixteen legs.

Christmas will be a puzzle this year, as I’ve not been getting out to shop. I feel there’s not much time left online either. Still… As the citizens of Whoville found out in The Grinch, Christmas is Christmas all on its own. We still have our trappings… a six-foot silver tree, lights and decorations. The cats with their 3D superstar impressions. Sisterly visits. There will be turkey, roast potatoes and bread sauce on the day.

I’ve been avoiding Facebook for most of the year, but decided there would be no harm in checking in with people over Christmas. Was surprised to find some really lovely comments about one of my cats… two pages of them! Perhaps my friend is right when she said you can make Facebook work for you. Check your privacy settings. Choose who you want to interact with, and write about those things that are tongue-in-cheek and fun. Don’t get all serious, angry or political. If you’re not enjoying somebody’s statuses, quietly unfollow them.

Well, perhaps. It still feels to me like we’re shark-bait.

It’s nice to get away from the internet from time to time. Talking of which, I have a lot of DVDs and am in the mood to watch some. I don’t often get the chance to, but when I can, there are old favourites I have in mind.

How to Train Your Dragon
Horton Hears a Who
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Young Montalbano
Master and Commander
The Croods

Those will be a good start.

*This was just an attempt to kick-start my failing blogging habit. Normal service will be resumed shortly.*

Posted in Health Issues

Just Had the ‘Grue’

Was annoyed when I came down with the cold… I knew it was going to interrupt everything, and so it did. Blog, business in town, Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, housework, organizing stuff… everything!

A friend and I agreed there needs to be a word for something that’s halfway between a cold and a flu, as you want to make it clear to the office you’re not well enough to leave the house, even if you were well enough to get out of bed. If you say “I have a cold,” they think maybe you could have come in anyway, but if you say “I have flu,” scorn is poured on you for overestimating what is wrong with you. You can’t win!

I was reading that you can have ‘flu-like symptoms’ caused by whatever flu virus is going around, though it isn’t flu you’ve got… clear as mud! I suppose you could phone up and say “I have flu-like symptoms” but that sounds as though you’re not quite sure that you’ve got anything!

Perhaps we should make up a word of our own, seeing as the doctors don’t appear to have any suggestions. Coldenza? Grue?

Of course, there are probably things we do say, like “I have a bug, a virus, what’s going around.” If I thought of it in time, I’d go with ‘bug’. I usually don’t realize ‘there’s something going round’ till it nobbles me!

Have been mourning my weakest cells. Poor little things.

Posted in Health Issues, Observations

I Hate Colds

Just to let folks know I’ve got a monster of a cold! It started innocently with a mild throat, and I thought it would be over in 24 hours. But it’s like nibbling at a tiny leaf only to have something huge and scaly erupt through the sand!


Hope to get back on the blog-beat soon, but I’ll be taking it slow for a few days.